|The Australian High Country|
Last weekend, D and I took a break in one of our favourite corners of the State, a little gold mining town tucked into the mountains, called (somewhat ironically) Walhalla. Far from being the home of the Gods, at its heyday it must have been more like hell. Walhalla lies in a narrow valley with steep slopes on either side. It is so steep that the cemetery boasts vertical graves and the locals literally had to take the top off a nearby hill to construct a cricket pitch.
Today Walhalla boasts a permanent population of about twenty people and has the dubious honour of being the last town in Victoria to be connected to the electrical grid (less than 20 years ago). When we first visited this area, the road into it was no more than a narrow dirt track. Today it boasts asphalt, bed and breakfasts and a steady stream of tourists. How it escaped the fury of the 2009 bushfires still causes the locals to wonder. It came close, ringing the valley on 3 sides. Black Saturday took Marysville but not Walhalla. If it had come, there would be no escape from this valley.
|Ruins at "Maiden Town"|
We did not deliberately choose the weekend of the Australian Rules Grand Final but the happy circumstance meant that Walhalla was quiet. It was also bitterly cold and very wet. Tucked up in our comfortable room in the Star Hotel, D read and I wrote. In the evening we ventured out into the cold, wet darkness on a ghost tour (more on that for a later blog).
For the return trip we decided to go north through "the High Country". This track takes you out past Thompson Dam (nearly dry during the height of the drought) and through the worst of the country devestated by Black Saturday. Few hardy souls go this way even in the best of weather and the rugged track was bearing witness to the storms of the last few months with wash aways and fallen trees making the going tough. The map declares the road "unsuitable for caravans". It would have been unsuitable for anything less than our Landrover!
We pause to look down at the Thompson Dam, ringed by its blue hills and now nearly filled. The air smells of damp gum leaves, cold and fresh.
My heart belongs to the High Country. Where does your heart lie?